“Nonresistance is the key to the greatest power in the universe.” – Eckhart Tolle
I am learning that this is even true with very strong negative emotions like anxiety. Last weekend I went to a Broadway show with 2 of my girlfriends. This was a pretty big deal for me. Sitting in classrooms, theaters, church, lecture halls, etc., has been a huge panic attack trigger for me ever since high school.
It’s been years since I’ve been to a play with anyone besides my family, hence no “safe person” in the event of a panic attack. And last spring when I went to a show with Bob, we were in the front row and I had so many panic attacks we had to change seats…
But I’ve been feeling so well lately, and I simply refuse to beg off events like I used to when I was younger. I never want to avoid situations, and let anxiety run the show as I did in my youth, so I went to the play with expectations to stay grounded and grateful.
We entered the theater as the play was just beginning. Our seats were way down in front and smack dab in the middle of a row. I immediately felt the fear rising up. This was the worst possible scenario for me. We had to climb over people to get to our seats and let me tell you that theater was old with very small chairs.
Within a few minutes of being seated I had a huge surge of adrenaline and felt awful. My mind told me there was no moving until intermission – which was in an hour and a half. I had the thought that I couldn’t bear it. I felt trapped and hot. My mouth was dry and I felt the intense need to leave the theater. I was sure I would faint in my chair, my poor heart was pounding so hard in my chest. My breathing was rapid and shallow, all the usual symptoms I get when anxiety strikes.
I’ve studied anxiety and also the teachings of great spiritual people such as Eckhart Tolle enough by now to know what to do. I knew I had to resist nothing. To not fight the fear. To not run from or give into the feelings and thoughts I was having.
I felt a wave of panic and heat go down my back and could feel my heart and lungs going at full speed. It was 100% full blown panic. As best as I was able to, I let myself go limp in my seat and just let the feelings be.
I continued to sit and watch and observe the feelings.
It was quite interesting. The sickening rush of fear and heat began to dissipate. It was as if I was a cup of boiling water being poured into a deep lake. My heart rate and breathing slowed as my body gently went back to an equilibrium state and I was left just sitting in that tiny chair in the dark.
I sat there in astonishment and a sense of gratitude overtook me. How grateful I was to be sitting there in that theater enjoying a wonderful play with friends.
I felt some cool air settle on me, probably from the indoor air conditioning. How lovely it felt to breathe it in.
“Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it.” – Eckhart Tolle, the Power of Now, p. 55
After a time, the fear rose up in me again, not quite as bad as the first time, but with all the same feelings and symptoms, and once again I did the same non-resistance. It was like riding a wave. It was actually a little cool to be able to just witness the terror of anxiety and see it go away just by sitting there and going limp. As the fear dissipated, my sense of calm and confidence returned, and once again I was alright.
The play lasted two and a half hours. I didn’t have any other panic attacks or waves of anxiety after intermission. In fact, I was absolutely 100% fine. I was happy and enjoying my time with friends.
Facing the fear and not resisting it was the key.
Thank you Lord, for showing me how beautiful life can be. My world continues to open up and for that I am truly grateful. 🙂
I wish you peace,
Highly recommended: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This book has literally changed my life.